AUSTIN, Texas—More than three months have passed since a warrant (PDF) initially went out for Defense Distributed founder Cody Wilson’s arrest. That document detailed Wilson’s alleged sexual assault against a female “child younger than 17 years of age” whom he reportedly solicited through the website SugarDaddyMeet.com. Last Friday, December 28, the State of Texas finally formally indicted (PDF) Wilson. The 3D printed gun advocate now faces multiple charges: four counts of sexual assault of a child, two charges of indecency with a child by contact, and two charges of indecency with a child by exposure.
These charges are all second-degree felonies punishable by up to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $10,000.
Wilson’s two previously scheduled initial court appearances in November and December had each been pushed back, as often happens in cases still waiting on a formal indictment. This recent filing may make it more likely that the newest tentative date (scheduled for early February) will occur, meaning Wilson’s team would need to finally appear at the Travis County Courthouse.
Time for info gathering
That fall arrest warrant kicked off a whirlwind week:
- On September 19, 2018, the warrant became public, detailing the alleged August 22 incident.
- Two days later, on September 21, authorities in Taipei, Taiwan worked in conjunction with US counterparts to apprehend Wilson at a local hotel where he’d been staying after being tipped off about the situation.
- On September 23, the 3D printed gun activist arrived back in Texas and was booked at the Harris County Sheriff’s Office before someone posted bail hours later.
- Finally, on September 25, the company Wilson founded and rode to notoriety—Defense Distributed—publicly announced his resignation.
Ars has attempted to contact Wilson, his legal team, and the Travis County District Attorney’s Office multiple times since late September, but on-the-record responses have been hard to come by. Court documents so far indicate authorities have gathered plenty of information from the night of the alleged sexual assault.
In a five-page affidavit (PDF) from September, Austin Police Department detective Shaun Donovan outlines surveillance videos from what is believed to be a coffee shop rendezvous point and the hotel where the incident reportedly took place. Police found a Black Ford Edge SUV in these videos registered to Defense Distributed. Later, they obtained “digital valet receipts” from the hotel showing the SUV was returned to Wilson later that night. Police also discovered hotel records pinpointing Wilson as the lone registered guest for the room in question on the night of the alleged incident.
Beyond that evidence, Travis County Magistrate Judge Tamara Needles signed off on a few additional search warrants. One from September 26 (PDF) asked for permission to seize photo evidence of Wilson’s groin and upper leg area, since the alleged victim initially told authorities she and Wilson exchanged nude photos and the affidavit states Wilson has a “uniquely identifiable skin condition.” Another from September 19 (PDF) focuses on Apple, given Wilson and the alleged victim exchanged both SMS and iMessages. This document asked for device and account information for Wilson’s iPhone, photos and videos stored to his iCloud account, and iMessage and SMS messages between Wilson and the girl.
The final warrant, also from September 19 (PDF), takes aim at SugarDaddyMeet.com, the site where Wilson (using the handle “Sanjuro”) allegedly first made contact with the girl. The warrant seeks all stored files about the Sanjuro account, including things like images, file transfers, Web access logs, credit and billing information, IP addresses, and more. (Shortly after the initial affidavit, Ars attempted to access SugarDaddyMeet.com. The “Sanjuro” profile had already been removed from the search tools available to site members.)
In light of his situation, Wilson initially enlisted Houston attorney Samy Khalil to represent him. Khalil appeared to have a background in business-oriented criminal cases, and on his firm’s website the attorney listed some Deepwater Horizon dismissals among his notable accomplishments. He offered the only public statement from Wilson’s side after the Defense Distributed founder was brought back to the US from Taiwan in an international legal effort: “We are glad that Cody is back in Texas again where we can work with him on his case,” Khalil told media on September 23. “That’s our focus right now, representing our client and preparing his defense.”
But in a mid-November motion to substitute counsel, Wilson switched legal teams entirely. He enlisted attorneys Joseph Turner, who has represented a range of clients including Willie Nelson and a Branch Davidian charged federally with murder, and F. Andino Reynal, a former federal prosecutor for the Southern District of Texas. Reynal gave the Austin American-Statesman a brief statement after the new indictment became publicly available.
“Mr. Wilson at all times believed reasonably that the complaining witness was a consenting adult,” the attorney told the paper. “We are confident that once all of the facts are out and we have a chance to interface with the DA’s office more directly that we’ll be able to resolve this matter.”
For now, Wilson remains out of jail on a $150,000 bond, though he is being monitored (as evidenced by a motion to travel out of state granted by the courts for the winter holidays). As for his former company, the Defense Distributed founder has been formally removed as a director, according to its Public Information Report filed with the Texas Comptroller’s office. The PIR for related organization Ghost Gunner, Inc. has yet to be updated for 2018 and still lists Wilson as a director.
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